US Soldiers Who Commit Sexual Crimes Should Be Handed Over to Japanese Law Enforcement

Another heinous crime has been committed by a U.S. soldier. In December 2021, the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted Jordan Begaye of the U.S. Marine Corps for injuring a woman in an attempt to sexually assault her the past October.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Okinawa prefecture returning to Japanese control. Although the prefectural government advocates for preventative measures and enforcement of disciplinary measures every time there is an incident, these heinous crimes continue to be committed. The underlying problem is the structure of the U.S. military. Sexual crimes violate the victim’s human rights and are considered a “murder of the soul.” These despicable and atrocious crimes absolutely cannot be allowed.

In the event of such crimes, if the U.S. recognizes a crime has been committed, military personnel can be handed over to Japanese law enforcement prior to indictment. However, in this case, Begaye was released to Okinawan police after indictment. Because the crime occurred outside of U.S. military facilities, the Japanese government should be the ones to detain the accused and investigate the case. The Japanese government should demand a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement to mandate pre-indictment surrender for all crimes.

Sex-related crimes by military personnel have been occurring one after another within the prefecture since last year. The perpetrators are emboldened by the knowledge that they are protected under the Status of Forces Agreement, which grants privileges to the U.S. military.

According to Article 17 of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, if U.S. military personnel or civilian employees of the military commit a crime that is not related to their official duties, they will remain with the U.S. until the Japanese government prosecutes the offense.

The Status of Forces Agreement was “improved” in the wake of the 1995 Okinawa rape incident. The U.S. has agreed to “give sympathetic consideration” regarding the transfer of the accused before prosecution only for “murder, rape, and other serious cases.” However, this is not enforceable; there have been cases where the U.S. refused to hand over military personnel accused of such crimes without giving a clear reason.

Regarding the case from October 2021, according to investigators, the U.S. military detained Lance Corporal Jordan Begaye on the base after the investigation by the prefectural police’s iidentified him. The defendant was under the supervision of the U.S. military and underwent multiple interrogations in response to appearance requests from the prefectural police. This is likely the result of information sharing and cooperation between the prefectural police and the U.S. military, but because of the Status of Forces Agreement’s improvement, Japanese law enforcement should be able to demand custody of the accused prior to indictment.

Why do sex-related crimes continue to happen? The Ryukyu Okinawa branch of the Veterans for Peace, established by retired U.S. military personnel, issued a statement in the wake of an incident in 2016, in which a 20-year-old Japanese woman was raped and murdered by a U.S. civilian employee of the military. The statement claims in its analysis that “military education and enforcement of discipline” is in a predicament.* The army cannot fight on the actual battlefield with “good neighbor” training alone, but there is also informal education on how to be an effective murderer.

Experts point out that the Marine Corps troops are trained to look down on women in order to promote masculine aggression, and consequently lose their balance as human beings. As long as this army remains, these crimes will be repeated.

On the other hand, there is the question of why the case was kept private by the prefectural government. Although victim protection is understandable, it is a fact that a heinous crime has occurred. There needs to be a convincing explanation for such secrecy.

*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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